Cardinals take 3 of 4 from Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Just when Matt Morris' injury threaten to
unravel the St. Louis Cardinals' suspect starting pitching staff,
Garrett Stephenson came out of the bullpen to serve as a fill-in

Stephenson made his second straight strong start by limiting
Pittsburgh to five hits over eight innings and Tino Martinez
homered, leading the Cardinals past the Pirates 4-3 Thursday.

Albert Pujols singled in the first to set up the Cardinals'
first run and extend the majors' longest hitting streak this season
to 28 games. All but one of the Cardinals' 11 hits was a single --
Martinez led off the sixth with his 12th homer -- as they won their
fifth in six games and sixth in eight games.

St. Louis took three of four in the series to tie Houston for
the NL Central lead. The Astros lost 7-1 to the Cubs, who closed to
within a half-game of first in the majors' most crowded division

Stephenson (7-11) allowed just one run for the third time in
four starts. He beat the Expos 2-1 with a complete game on July 29
and the Braves 3-1 on Saturday, when he lasted seven innings.

"He didn't throw the ball hard but he really pitched smart,"
the Pirates' Jose Hernandez said. "He kept going in and out,
getting guys out with his changeup. He certainly didn't overpower
anybody, but he shut us down for the most part."

It's a big turnaround from a month ago when, with Stephenson
coming off a stretch of five consecutive losses that dropped his
record to 4-10, he was temporarily sent to the bullpen against his

"I still didn't think I was pitching that bad," Stephenson
said. "Sometimes you're going to catch breaks and sometimes you're
not. ... Right now, the results are pretty good."

Stephenson is pitching again like he did in 2000, when he was
16-9. Good thing for the Cardinals, too, because he's given them a
big lift with Morris (8-6) out since July 22 with a broken bone in
his right hand.

Morris threw in the bullpen Thursday and could start as early as
Sunday in Philadelphia.

So much for the theory the Cardinals would begin to fade without
Morris, their one starting pitcher who has pitched consistently
well all season.

"I've said from Day One we had a good pitching staff and I
still believe that," Stephenson said. "We've got a good team
behind us ... I think we're real close to it (getting on a roll)."

Stephenson retired the first 12 batters until Matt Stairs
doubled leading off the fifth and came home on Hernandez's one-out
sacrifice fly. Hernandez drove in all three Pirates runs, adding a
two-run double against Jason Isringhausen, who pitched the ninth.

With the potential tying run on second, Isringhausen got Abraham
Nunez to ground out to end the game and secure his 13th save in 14

Scott Rolen's single drove in Pujols to give the Cardinals a 1-0
lead in the first against Jeff D'Amico (7-12), who yielded 10 hits
and four runs in six innings. Bo Hart had a run-scoring single in
the second and Stephenson drove in his second run of the season
with a two-out single in the fourth.

Pujols' streak is the longest in the majors this season and the
Cardinals' longest since Ken Boyer's 29-game streak in 1959.

Martinez's homer was his second in three games after he went
five weeks without homering following a July 4 shot off the Cubs'
Kerry Wood.

"We had to work hard to get the three (wins) here," manager
Tony La Russa said. "This was work ball, not playing ball."

For Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, it was almost a day off
from work. He was ejected for the fourth time this season after
screaming at umpires Eric Cooper and Mike Reilly. McClendon came
charging out of the dugout as D'Amico was about to pitch to Edgar
Renteria with a runner on first and St. Louis leading 2-0 in the

"I absolutely didn't say enough to warrant getting thrown out
of this game," McClendon said. "All I said was he (Renteria)
bunted through a pitch, it's not that hard of a call -- and he threw
he me out."

McClendon first yelled at Cooper, the home plate umpire, who
quickly ejected him. As Reilly, the crew chief, attempted to steer
McClendon toward the Pirates' dugout, the manager angrily tossed
his hat and threw down his sunglasses.

At one point during the brief argument, McClendon appeared to
bump at least one of the umpires.

Game notes
Before Thursday, the Cardinals were 4-10 in Stephenson's 14
road starts. ... It was the first time in five games that Pujols
did not extend his streak with a homer. The longest streak in
Cardinals history is Rogers Hornsby's 33-game run in 1922. ...
Stephenson is 6-2 in his career against Pittsburgh. ... The Pirates
have lost seven of 11. ... The Pirates allowed a homer for the
eighth consecutive game. ... D'Amico has lost eight of 11
decisions. ... The Cardinals went 5-2 in Pittsburgh.